Oh, my GOODNESS, I got sick of Jane. Post-grad school, I packed away anything with a hint of Eyre in its affairs, and turned my back. As an English major and an English and creative writing MFA'er, I'd had SIX years of that woman and her mad attic-dwelling predecessor, and I was OVER HER. DONE. Finito.
Okay, yeah, some of my favorite books had hints of Eyre, and when, a few years ago, there was a big move to recover classic novels, I almost thought, "Yeah, I could almost read that again.
And then, last winter, I found myself reading JENNA STARBORN, by Sharon Shinn, and realized I was, yet again, reading JANE EYRE. It was too late to put down by then. It was equally too late by the time I was nearly through IRONSKIN...
Reader Gut Reaction: Well, it didn't FEEL like another Jane book. This girl was HEARTY - no puling orphan types here. Though scarred and orphaned after The Great War, she shouldered her burden - or burdens, plural, and screwed her courage to the sticking point, and every other English-language cliché you can come up with, and she did what she had to do. She went where people might think her odd and deformed, and asked to have a job -- in order to help one who might be more deformed than she herself. Jane didn't get stupid or vain or confused until three quarters of the way through, when there were simply too many choices with potentially bad outcomes. And the outcomes were REALLY bad... sometimes you have to stay OUT of the woods, to keep away from the fey. And other times, you have to go IN to the woods, to save your soul...
Concerning Character: I mentioned no puling, yes? (How I love that word.) Jane is a survivor. She lost her father. She lost her brother. She lost her beauty -- and she knows she is never going to get back her innocence, either. Jane's sister, Helen, plays at innocence in a way both disingenuous and exhausting. Jane's charge, Dorrie, has never had innocence, in spite of her few years on earth. Despite the machinations around her, Jane remains untouched ... even her breathless adoration for her employer is tempered for a very long time with good sense, and, predictably, rage. The rage both defines and defeats her time after time after time... until she accepts it.
She's wry, self-observant, stubborn, scared, and very, very angry. Her name is Jane Eliot, and what you see is what you get. That's kind of what I like about her.
Recommended for Fans Of...: JENNA STARBORN, by Sharon Shinn, THE PECULIARS, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, JANE_E, FRIENDLESS ORPHAN by Erin McCole-Cupp; JANE, by April Lindner, JANE AIRHEAD, by Kay Woodward, and WIDE SARGASSO SEA, by Jean Rhys
Themes & Things: Revealing no spoilers, I will say that one of the themes of this book is inner and outer worlds, revelations and secrets. Going masked and veiled, Jane attempts to contain herself before the outer world - keeping herself and her emotions under wraps, as it were. The necessity of this -- when so many other people in society are unwrapped, uncontained, and uncensored -- especially Mr. Rochart's clients -- creates a good foil for some other issues. Despite the evidence of her curse from the scars of the Fey Wars, Mr. Rochart wants Jane unveiled -- eventually, this theme of revelation and openness twines together with Jane's eventual discoveries and decisions about her past in the war, and the truth of Mr. Rochart's art and skill. There are even truths - and secrets - revealed about the fey... which change EVERYTHING. (And, which will mean a sequel.)
Cover Chatter: Let's see, let's see, we've got the requisite Gothic pile of stone, check; dark, stabby looking branches, like the bony eldritch fingers of the fey, check; evocative atmospheric mists, check; one iron mask, check, one... sleeveless dress and pair of strappy heels that simply everyone wears in England at night outdoors in the wet? Er... fail, on that one. That girl needs to cover up, it's cold! In all seriousness, except for the fact that she looks like she's vamping, and our Jane is a bastion of humility, self-consciousness and resentful modesty, the cover does go with the story fairly well.
FTC: This ARC e-galley courtesy of NetGalley and Tor; the unsolicited review opinions are my own.
You can find IRONSKIN by Tina Connolly everywhere, including at an independent bookstore near you!